The ironic voice of popular culture as heard in dialog from a furniture commercial.

July 10, 2014


Adweek’s Tim Nudd is right to praise this new campaign for American Value City/Signature Furniture –as much for what it is not (direct response crap) as for what it is (mildly entertaining). Few genres of advertising annoy like discount furniture advertising. The screaming. Those spinning dollar signs. Ugly ass products as far as the eyes can see. Kudos to agency Translation for not doing that.

But I want to focus on a detail from the campaign, a feature of the copy, which hopefully invites an interesting discussion. It points to something as a copywriter I’ve wrestled with a long, long time. Listen to the commercial.

Every spot begins essentially the same way. In the one above (my favorite), the lead actor states, “I love this new bed from American Signature Furniture…” He then goes into his bit, which is actually kind of funny.

But here’s the thing. Few “normal” people would use the store’s proper name in a conversation. They’d just say, “I love our new bed!” By overtly stating the client’s entire 3-part name, the actor breaks the so-called wall between the viewer and the narrative.

I doubt the copywriter would disagree with me. While it’s entirely possible the writer tried to sell a more “real” sounding piece of copy and failed I have another theory: that the line is intentionally commercial because the creators believe it’s funnier that way. Obviously, it also appeases the client to hear their name right up front but that just might be a lucky strike extra.

Some time ago, popular culture, in particular advertising, embraced its fakeness as part of the fun. Actors happily began occupying the twilight between spokesperson and character. The many great Old Spice commercials are famous examples.

Let’s go back even further. In the early 90’s, prior to grunge music and the genesis of mumblecore, being realistic was all-important. Call it a cynical reaction to shoulder pads and hair metal. Not looking commercial in commercials, especially in commercials, is what many of us creatives in Adland aspired to.

But everything cycles doesn’t it? Eventually the idea of trying to be real in a TV commercial became patently absurd. Actors began breaking character to address viewers directly. Then this ironic pose became a defining characteristic. It has now become ubiquitous in popular culture.

Fallout from all this is when the actor playing a husband talks to his wife (and us) at the same time. Like in these commercials for American Value Furniture. No surprise given people nowadays consider themselves brands. That’s my theory anyway. What do you think?

Tim Nudd’s Adweek review:


5 Responses to “The ironic voice of popular culture as heard in dialog from a furniture commercial.”

  1. I think it’s the old client mandate or the writer preemptively putting in the mandate. It’s not arch, campy or meta enough to be intentional. At least by putting it up front you forget the indiscretion quickly enough to enjoy the spot.

  2. I agree with Jason. At least, I hope that’s the case. My guess is they sold an initially “cute/funny” spot and by the time it went through countless revisions and reviews the name was jammed in there because of every clients innate fear that no one will know who was paying for their commercial.

    I’ve been doing this for years and I’ll never understand why clients and agencies force/approve copy written so terribly. And yet, it always makes me smile.

  3. The vomit commercial is quite disgusting. Those of us on Chemo Therapy deal with nausea daily. To poke fun at this is offensive and unconscionable.

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